Souza sells and how
Prasun Sonwalkar

F. N. Souza is now seen as one of the best Indian artists of the 20th century
F. N. Souza is now seen as one of the best Indian artists of the 20th century

Paintings by Indian artists are increasingly in demand in Britain. A painting by noted Indian artist Francis Newton Souza bought in 1967 for £50 has fetched its Devon-based owner a whopping £173,000.

An unidentified couple, resident of Devon in southwest England, had bought the painting, called "Still Life". The couple celebrated this week when the painting was sold for £173,000 at an auction in London.

After antique dealers Bonhams announced it was holding a sale of contemporary Indian and Pakistani paintings, the wife contacted the firm to request a valuation.

Sam Tuke, of Bonhams’ Honiton office that carried out the valuation, told the media: "We placed an estimate of £80,000-120,000 on the picture but it exceeded our expectations.

"The market for Souzas has really taken off with many Indian expatriates and galleries in India buying back their heritage via an artist who is now seen as one of the best Indian artists of the 20th century." When told that the painting had sold for £173,000, the couple at first did not believe the news.

Tuke said: "Our client was delighted but it took a while for the amount to sink in. She asked a few times what it had made and then asked if I was joking." Souza, who was born in 1924 and died in 2002, is known in art circles as the Indian Picasso. His paintings often fetch six figure sums and six of his paintings made the top 10 in the Bonhams sale.

Souza’s ’Nude Rain’, 1966, oil on canvas
Souza’s ’Nude Rain’, 1966, oil on canvas

Another Souza picture, also bought for a song in a New York flea market in 1983, sold for £151,200 at the auction.

Meanwhile, an original gouache painting on former United States first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1962 after a visit to India and Pakistan is one of the items that will be on sale in Swindon in October. It depicts the Kennedys in Indian dress.

The items include a series of three engravings given as Christmas cards signed by then president John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline.

Auctioneer Chris Albury told the media: "This truly is a red letter day for the many Kennedy collectors worldwide. The closeness of Maud Shaw to the Kennedys and their children makes these mementos very personal and collectable.

The charming gouache painting particularly excites us.

"It shows JF Kennedy and children wearing Indian dress and turbans, with JFK walking at the front and dragging a dead tiger by its tail, followed by John junior and Caroline riding on white and black horses.

"This was probably painted in 1962 after Jackie’s visit to India and Pakistan with her sister Lee, and could prove the star lot of the show." Reports say that the items are expected to fetch about £20,000 and are being sold because the costs of insuring the items are too high. The items belonged to the family of Kent woman Maud Shaw, who was the Kennedy family’s nanny during JFK’s presidency. — IANS